Florida’s Medical Cannabis Law Launches Off

florida medical marijuana cannabis

Expanded access to medical cannabis in Florida goes into effect on Tuesday, January. 3rd 2017. The result of voters passing Amendment 2 in November, the new laws will significantly expand what medical conditions qualify for medical cannabis, but the rules and regulations to fully implement Amendment 2 are still months away.

The disconnect between the Jan. 3 deadline and the rules governing Florida’s medical cannabis industry means patients, doctors, and lawmakers are charting new and uncertain waters.

Currently there are only six licensed marijuana dispensaries in Florida. Patients must have a 90-day relationship with a doctor who has completed the required training before they can get a recommendation for medical cannabis.

If you’re thinking that will take forever putting together the rules and regulations, it won’t. They can’t drag their feet on this one like with Charlotte’s Web, a 2014 law allowing a low-THC form of cannabis, because they have only six months to come up with rules, according to the legal language in Amendment 2. And, they have to implement those rules within nine months.

So, here’s three important things to know with Florida’s medical cannabis law:

  1. The legal language of Amendment 2 was written to explicitly allow medical marijuana to be provided as a treatment for patients with the following specific diseases:
  • cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis

Amendment 2 was also designed to allow licensed physicians to certify patients for medical cannabis use after diagnosing them with some “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”

  1. Only certain doctors who’ve gone through training can approve the drug for you. An entire list is on the Florida Department of Health’s website with all of their information. Once again, your primary care physician cannot approve it if they do not have a specific license. Also, the doctor can only order medical cannabis if they’ve treated you for at least 90 days.
  1. You have to first look into all other treatments for your condition before applying for medical cannabis and get a second opinion from another physician.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 340 physicians are registered. There are currently 1,495 patients in the state registry but that number will steadily increase. Six of the seven licensed organizations have received authorization to distribute medical cannabis. At least one more additional license will likely be granted after a recent settlement between the Department of Health and two Southwest Florida nurseries. Once the patient registry reaches 250,000 then an additional three licenses will be made available.

Although the 2014 measure and the 2016 measure were both designed to legalize medical cannabis, there were some differences between the two proposals. The 2016 measure clarified requirements for parental consent for the use of medical cannabis by minors and also further defined what is meant by “debilitating” illnesses that would qualify for cannabis as a treatment option. The 2016 measure also addressed concerns regarding caregivers by making it clear that doctors would not be immune from malpractice claims for negligent prescribing of cannabis and by limiting how many patients a caregiver can treat with cannabis.

Despite the passage of Amendment 2, there’s a growing number of moratoriums for medical cannabis dispensaries in cities and villages across Florida, including Sarasota and Estero. Both Pasco and Manatee Counties have requested bans on medical cannabis in their communities, according to Sunshine State News. Local leaders are implementing a “wait-and-see” approach as the state Department of Health, and lawmakers in Tallahassee, grapple with the rules and laws that will ultimately govern a statewide system of legal medical cannabis harvesting, licensing, selling, and more.

Jason Barker
About Jason Barker 35 Articles

• New Mexico medical cannabis patient and activist
• Grass roots organizer with LECUA Patients Coalition of New Mexico
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